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HTML5 Isn't Ready For Primetime, YouTube Says

Flash offers video streaming capabilities that HTML5 just can't match yet.

Apple's effort to leave the past behind, as CEO Steve Jobs has characterized his company's rejection of Adobe's Flash technology, may take longer than expected.

Kuan Yong, platforms product manager for Google's YouTube, says that despite his company's efforts to make YouTube videos run in an HTML5 player, Flash isn't going anywhere.

The HTML5 <video> tag meets basic video delivery and display requirements, but it's not yet sufficient for the high-volume, high-value video that YouTube serves.

"[W]hile the <video> tag is a big step forward for open standards, the Adobe Flash Platform will continue to play a critical role in video distribution," said Yong in a blog post on Tuesday.

Beyond the video encoding schism that pits Apple and Microsoft -- patent holders in, and supporters of, the H.264 video encoding specification -- against Adobe, Google, Mozilla, and Opera -- which have all pledged support for the VP8 video encoding specification in Google's open-source WebM format -- HTML5 doesn't yet support industrial-strength video streaming capabilities.

YouTube increasingly is delivering full-length movies and live streaming events, and doing so without hiccups or interruptions often requires fine control over buffering and dynamic quality control.

"Flash Player addresses these needs by letting applications manage the downloading and playback of video via Actionscript in conjunction with either HTTP or the RTMP video streaming protocol," explains Yong. "The HTML5 standard itself does not address video streaming protocols, but a number of vendors and organizations are working to improve the experience of delivering video over HTTP."

YouTube also has to offer copy protection for some videos, like YouTube Rentals. The Flash Platform's RTMPE protocol is compatible with copyright protection technology, but HTML5 is not.

Flash also remains the preferred option for video embedding.

"While HTML5 adds sandboxing and message-passing functionality, Flash is the only mechanism most Web sites allow for embedded content from other sites," insists Yong.

In addition, Flash surpasses what browsers alone can do in terms of hardware-accelerated full-screen display of HD content. Yong observes that while WebKit has made some progress in this area, it's not sufficient, particularly when content needs to be layered on top of video.

Finally, Yong notes that HTML5 still lags behind Flash in terms of its support for Web cams and microphones in the browser. It turns out YouTube users rely on such tools quite a bit.

HTML5 simply doesn't meet YouTube's requirements yet, Yong concludes.

In conjunction with Google's decision to bake Flash support into its Android devices, Flash doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Update: Corrected attribution of post.

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